09/29/11 10:00 AM ET
Run prevention, offense on Padres' wish list
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
Say what you will about the Padres' moribund offense this season -- no other team in the Major Leagues was shut out as many times (19) -- but San Diego also saw a discernible slip in pitching and defense, two elements that served the 2010 team so well.
The Padres will turn their attention to shoring up their pitching -- both in the rotation and bullpen -- for 2012, as well as looking for a bat for the lineup and better options on the bench for manager Bud Black.
In a competitive division that includes Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson of the D-backs, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the Giants and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, the Padres simply didn't match up well on the pitching side.
That could mean the addition of one or possibly more starting pitchers before the start of Spring Training.
In the bullpen, the Padres could be faced with losing All-Star closer Heath Bell, who will be a free agent. Mike Adams was traded to the Rangers on July 31, leaving the bullpen -- once one of the best in the game -- as a question mark for 2012.
Offensively, the Padres would love to add some thump. The Padres finished with fewer than 100 home runs for the first time since 1994.
Given the difficulty of attracting free-agent position players to spacious PETCO Park -- and the reality of paying well beyond market value to do so -- Hoyer could look to add a position player, such as a corner outfielder with pop, via trade, as he did a year ago when he dealt two relievers to the Marlins for Cameron Maybin.
And adding a position player with power -- by whatever means -- would allow the other hitters in the order to slide into spots where they should typically be hitting, given their skill set and history.
Finally, expect the Padres to add to their bench. There wasn't much left to spend there last offseason because of the money that went to middle infielders Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson.
The Padres' bench, with players like Yorvit Torrealba, Jerry Hairston and Matt Stairs, didn't offer much in the way of a dropoff in talent in 2010. But injuries this season to Hudson, third baseman Chase Headley and catcher Nick Hundley exposed the bench.
There is help on the farm, on the position side and pitching, but players like third baseman Jedd Gyorko and pitchers Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly are still one year away, at best.
Here's a look at where the Padres are, position-by-position, heading into the offseason:
Catcher: This was supposed to be a breakout season for Hundley, where he was not assigned a mentor and was expected to handle a bulk of the catching duties. But he missed 63 games with two injuries (oblique, elbow surgery). Hundley was good once he returned, and you'll find nary a detractor in the clubhouse or front office. Look for the team to find an offensive upgrade here as a backup.
First base: Whereas Adrian Gonzalez once provided stability to the position, the Padres had six different players play first base in 2011. The team would love for Anthony Rizzo to win the position outright in Spring Training. But Rizzo's success in the Pacific Coast League did not translate well to his first run in the big leagues. If Rizzo can't win the job, look for Jesus Guzman -- the team's best hitter in the second half -- to see time there. He's not the defender Rizzo is, but he can rake and isn't scared off by PETCO Park.
Second base: Hudson will be 34 on Opening Day, and is still guaranteed $7.5 million ($5.5 million in 2012, $2 million buyout for 2013). He missed 35 games in the first half with two DL stints and struggled offensively. Will he be back or could the Padres possibly move him this winter? Logan Forsythe showed that he could handle the position, though he's better suited at third base. Alberto Gonzalez can also play second base, as well as shortstop and third base.
Shortstop: Bartlett will return for a second season. He was a much better hitter in the second half of 2011. The same went for his defense, which improved dramatically after the All-Star break. He also provided a level of dependability at such a critical position the team hadn't seen since Khalil Greene manned the position in 2007. Gonzalez is a solid backup, especially defensively.
Third base: Headley, who qualified early for Super 2 status, made $2.335 million and will be set for a raise. The Padres like rookies Forsythe and James Darnell, though his future could eventually be in the outfield. Lack of power aside, there are those in the front office who like what Headley has to offer.
Outfield: Maybin was everything the team hoped he would be -- and more -- in his first season with the Padres. As for who plays next to him in 2012? We'll see. Kyle Blanks showed some pop in the second half, and handled left field remarkably well for someone his size. But he needs to hit for a higher average. Other than that, there are a lot of fourth-outfield types, though the team is still hopeful Will Venable can bounce back after a rough season. Could the Padres strike gold again, like they did with Maybin, to land a corner outfielder?
Starting pitching: Mat Latos started the season on the DL and struggled in the first half of the season. He got back to pounding the strike zone in the second half and rediscovered his slider. Cory Luebke, a reliever to start the season, was very good once he moved into the rotation. The team knows what it has in pitchers like Dustin Moseley, Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc and Tim Stauffer. Rookie Anthony Bass impressed. He will get a shot at the rotation. The Padres liked how Aaron Harang pitched, but will likely decline their side of the mutual option for '12. Look for the team to add at least one starter.
Relief pitching: What to do about Bell, who will be a free agent? He made $7.5 million in 2011, and the Padres likely aren't keen on the idea of again having their closer be their highest-paid player. The question is, if the Padres offer him arbitration, will he decline or accept? Chad Qualls rebuilt his credentials after a miserable 2010, but the Padres won't pick up his $6 million option ($1 million buyout). There are still some nice pieces in the bullpen -- even after the Adams trade. But the team isn't nearly as deep as it once was. Want a name to tuck away? Try Minor Leaguer Miles Mikolas.